You Do What? You Work Where? Corporate speech-language pathology brings clinicians to some unlikely places to help businesspeople with communication. In Private Practice
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In Private Practice  |   November 01, 2015
You Do What? You Work Where?
Author Notes
  • Katie Schwartz, MA, CCC-SLP, is the owner of Business Speech Improvement in Durham, North Carolina, and president of the Corporate Speech Pathology Network. info@BusinessSpeechImprovement.com
    Katie Schwartz, MA, CCC-SLP, is the owner of Business Speech Improvement in Durham, North Carolina, and president of the Corporate Speech Pathology Network. info@BusinessSpeechImprovement.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   November 01, 2015
You Do What? You Work Where?
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.20112015.28
The ASHA Leader, November 2015, Vol. 20, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.20112015.28
I dislike heights. Yet here I was, working with a client, 30 feet up on a catwalk, in a mill. Wearing a hard hat, I kept silently reminding myself, “You’re a speech-language pathologist; listen to his speech and don’t look down!”
How did I get there? I have a corporate speech-language pathology practice and I try to work, when possible, where my corporate clients work. This particular client worked on a catwalk, overseeing the mill operations. Who knew people worked up there?
Corporate SLPs specialize in people in the workforce. All business requires communication. Serving as business communication consultants, we provide services such as accent modification, presentation skills, voice ergonomics and speech rate reduction.
It’s all about business
Some clients have traditional communication disorders, but most are referred for business communication problems they describe in unique terms: “stuck in the mud” (perseveration) or “needs CPR speech” (concise, precise, relevant). Purchasing agents or buyers, who may be in offices far from the employee, call with descriptions such as “He talks funny” and she has “mushmouth.” I have learned to say, “Tell me more” and “May I contact the employee and his supervisor?” to hear the problem myself.
Corporate SLPs use business terms only. “Diagnosis,” “therapy” and “disorder” become “assessment,” “training” or “coaching,” and “problem.” When clients tell me they want services immediately, I always ask for clarification, as “immediately” can mean “now” or “when my boss approves it and funds are found”—which can be a long time.
I receive payment through corporate training funds or self-pay. It’s important that each client or company signs a contract, which should include clauses for cancelation of services, refunds and terms of payment. Your contract should be approved by a state-licensed attorney.

I try to work, when possible, where my corporate clients work. This particular client worked on a catwalk.

Interesting work, interesting people
There are many advantages to corporate speech-language pathology. Members of the international Corporate Speech Pathology Network (Corspan) rate variety as the top benefit. We never know what we will be asked to do next.
Clients are highly educated and motivated professionals, many with PhDs. They often want to know our reasons for a particular exercise or recommendation, so clinical expertise is essential. Coaching can be fast—a few hourly sessions—full days, or extend over a longer period of time. After coaching, many clients report increased self-confidence; others tell of promotions or success in giving important presentations.
Services are customized to each client’s needs, depending on their skills, vocabulary and workplace communication needs (such as lecturing or interviewing). Continual learning is vital so that I can meet future clients’ needs. Sources include books, the Web and my Corspan colleagues.
Payment and paperwork are swift. Reports, if any, are short and written in everyday English for readers in other professions.
A major disadvantage, however, is that we are always marketing. This type of marketing involves business networking. Sales cycles can last a year, as training is approved for the next fiscal year in some companies.
Almost all corporate SLPs are self-employed, and work may come in bursts, so many do corporate work part time in addition to a more stable source of income. These other positions could be a traditional private practice, a part-time job, or a full-time job with a more flexible schedule, such as a year-round school (which has four long vacations each year). Other Corspan colleagues see clients at night online (being careful to follow all telepractice laws, which vary by state), on their days off or full time.
Get started
If you are interested in pursuing corporate work, begin by making a list of local major employers that might need your services and how you would like to help them. My client in the mill, for example, wanted accent modification so that he could communicate better with the people he supervised. Contact the employers’ training or human resources departments to see if there is a need for these services. Develop a name for your practice, and get a business license and malpractice insurance.
Clients can be seen at their workplaces, in a shared office or co-working space, in your office, in rented space by the hour or day, or another convenient location. If I can’t see clients in their work setting, I often go shopping with them at the end of training so I can assess skill generalization. If they can speak clearly about products that interest them, they have generalized the skills they learned.
To prepare, take seminars in starting a business and accent modification. Talk to corporate trainers to find out if there is a need for communication training. Create a website, and get business cards printed and keep a few with you wherever you go—potential clients are everywhere. Write a questionnaire to get more information about a client, such as languages spoken, difficulty speaking clearly in the native language, hearing loss, occupation, and examples of professional terminology he or she uses.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, want to make a difference and love variety, consider corporate speech pathology!
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November 2015
Volume 20, Issue 11